BROOKVILLE – Thanks to the efforts of Batesville police officers, a burglary case involving thousands of dollars was solved and four Batesville area citizens were brought to justice.
On Aug. 31, 2011, Benito Lopez, Arlington Drive, reported the theft of $20,000 from a safe he had in his residence, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Franklin Circuit Court Oct. 5, 2011.
Officers began an investigation and learned that from Dec. 20, 2010, to Jan. 10, 2011, Lopez and his family were on vacation in Mexico, and on Jan. 13, 2011, the homeowner discovered the safe’s lock broken and money missing.
Around Dec. 30, 2010, several teens broke into the home over two days, the document stated. One of them had dated the homeowner’s daughter. The first night, jewelry and other valuables were taken. The second night, someone found the key to the safe and opened it. “These kids got their hands on tens of thousands of dollars in cash,” said Chris Huerkamp, Franklin County chief deputy prosecuting attorney, Feb. 11, as he reminisced about the case with Batesville police Chief Stan Holt and Assistant Chief Mike Benjamin. “It was overwhelming .... (and) they started putting it wherever they could in their coats.”
Then “they blew it all on drugs .... and lived like rock stars, having hotel parties and going on shopping sprees,” he revealed.
To explain where they received this fortune, the teens made up a story about winning the lottery, the affidavit said.
Holt pointed out, “One of the things that helps us out is usually when teens are involved in crimes, it’s too good to keep it quiet.” They tell their friends and the word spreads quickly. “It took a little longer this time, but it did surface.
“We have a team approach on working these cases, and I think we have a good working relationship with young people and adults in the community.”
Officers interviewed each of the suspects. “The way the dominoes fell, they all pointed fingers around the circle and thought they were shielding themselves,” but eventually, the four pled guilty and were sentenced in Franklin Circuit Court, Huerkamp reported.
Jesus Gill, who was 18 at the time, pled guilty to burglary, a Class B felony, and was sentenced Oct. 31, 2012, to 12 years in prison with two suspended to probation.
The other three, who were juveniles at the time, were waived to adult court. Dalton Peterson, who was 16 at the time, pled guilty to two counts of burglary and was sentenced April 25, 2012, to 20 years in prison with four suspended to probation.
Jose Gill, who was 16 at the time, pled guilty to receiving stolen property, a Class D felony, and was sentenced Jan. 23, 2013, to 18 months in prison with nine months suspended to probation.
Michael Roelker, who was 17 at the time, pled guilty to two counts of burglary and was sentenced Dec. 18, 2013, to 10 years in prison with 2 two suspended to probation.
Two other minors had their cases disposed of in Ripley County Juvenile Court.
“These guys thought they were a gang, but I don’t know if they really were,” the prosecutor noted.
Benjamin revealed, “They did wear ‘812’ on their hats,” which stands for the area code.
Holt pointed out, “Most cases of this nature are somehow tied back into drugs in some way .... When you’re dealing with a whole group of teenagers, and they start breaking into homes to get money, that makes it even scarier for citizens.
“We have a good team of officers .... At that time, Mike was in charge of investigations with help from (former BPD officer) Gandy Browning. When you get involved in these cases, it’s time consuming. They were involved in them every single day. I helped with some interviews. (Former school resource officer) Blake Roope also helped out. The talent that is there, and the dedication they put into these cases is great. It makes me proud of this department and our guys and how they work together.”
The chief added, “Our job is to present the very best case possible to the prosecutor ... We like to see exactly how things are going to play out.”
Huerkamp emphasized, “Like always, the Batesville police did a terrific job.” Since they didn’t know about the burglary and didn’t start investigating “until nine months after it happened, it was past the point of finding physical evidence .... (but) they chased down every lead and got statements from people.
“This is the standard we see from them time in and time out.”
Diane Raver can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.